Chris MacLean's picture
A new military affliction: Thin Skin
Posted on Feb 04, 2016

In a Letter to the Editor today, General Vance admonished The Chronicle Herald for an editorial cartoon that insinuates the CAF has some issues with the subjugation of women.

My first thought was: "Since when does the military have such thin skin?" And then, I checked out the cartoon (see link below). Ouch. What a low blow. But the whole reason for art and comedy is to make us think about a topic, and sometimes we don't like what we see or hear, and it inspires us to make positive change.

Sure, we get that the General is working hard to find ways to change the culture, and it is probably the one thing that keeps him up at night. He is definitely taking undeserved grief from the media over the fact that women are actually using the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre resource since it became operational in September – don't they realize the breakthrough it is that women in the Canadian Armed Forces now feel safe and secure enough to be able to speak out and not fear being shamed or bullied into recounting and slinking back into the shadows?

However, lashing out at critics is not a seasoned move. There have been problems, serious problems, for many years. We are all relieved that the culture is now being systematically challenged from the top, maybe it will change, but it takes time.

Instead of complaining that a cartoon is too harsh, put nose to the grindstone and deal harshly with insiders who ignore or accept inappropriate behaviour,

True, jokes aimed at a person or group are not to be tolerated anywhere within the military, or any other organization for that matter, and that message should not change. I also recognize the irony that General Vance is telling his people not to belittle others, while simultaneously fighting for Canadian values, which includes the right of free speech.

There is a difference, however subtle. Political or editorial cartoons have long been used to highlight tough issues in a very unique way, and that was certainly the goal with this particular cartoon. In my opinion, it has succeeded admirably. The juxtaposition of Ghomeshi and the military in a single frame was, to me, unexpected, and made me see the issue from a whole new perspective – it is therefore a brilliant way to epitomize both the public's frustration and the CAF's obligation to make serious change happen.

Instead of being "disappointed" in a decision to publish this cartoon, make it the foundation of the new push to eliminate the last shadows of sexual harassment on what is otherwise an honourable organization. Canadians want to be proud of their military again.

I can think of no better way to start off a presentation than with: "We never want to see anything like this again – and it is up to YOU to ensure change happens, and that every person within the Canadian military reflects our core values."

Make it work for you.

– Chris MacLean

To read the letter and view the cartoon, visit